Dance Gavin Dance has a way of combining contrasting musical elements that is unparalleled in the experimental post-hardcore scene. Tilian Pearson’s airy, lyrical falsetto paired with Jon Mess’s flawless rhythmic screams is often attempted, but rarely mastered to this degree in the genre. Add to that Will Swan and Tim Feerick’s funk-inspired, mind-blowing guitar riffs and some intense double-bass from drummer Matt Mingus, and you have a recipe for a seriously good time. The sold-out crowd at Dallas’s Southside Ballroom last Friday night was all about it.
The band is currently on tour supporting their latest release, Artificial Selection, which kicked off in their hometown of Anaheim, California with their own personally curated music festival dubbed “SwanFest”. The Artificial Selection tour includes a whopping five supporting acts: Periphery, Thousand Below, Don Broco, Hail the Sun and Covet. Periphery and Thousand Below are alternating dates, and we got Periphery in Dallas.
First on the bill was California-based trio, Covet. The self-described “adventure rockers” provided a chill 20-minute set of prog-rock-inspired instrumental jams. Although they were interesting to listen to and clearly very talented musicians, their vibe wasn’t the most effective to kick off the night.
Next up was Hail the Sun, another California-based post-hardcore outfit. DGD fans may be familiar with this group since frontman Donovan Melero joined forces with DGD’s Will Swan in 2013 to form the supergroup Sianvar. Melero tried to amp the crowd up at the top of the set by launching straight into their first song, but we weren’t feeling it just yet. The group had tons of energy throughout, and Melero took up the entire stage engaging the crowd while he was at the helm. By the fourth song, he moved back to the drum set but continued to perform lead vocals. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I should be amazed or appalled. Admittedly, vocals and rhythm suffered a tiny bit, but it was a sight to see for sure. Unencumbered by the traditional frontman, the other members of the group seemed to have more fun on the stage.
British rockers Don Broco followed and were my pick for the best openers on this bill. The quartet is well known for putting on a fun show, and they did not disappoint. Their sound ranged from glittery alt-pop to post-hardcore, and the crowd seemed unable to resist their infectious charm from the second they took the stage. Tons of fans were jumping around, dancing and singing along excitedly. Some even took their shirts off as requested for one of the band’s final cuts, “T-Shirt Song” from their 2018 record Technology. I also got quite a show from where I was standing, as high-kicks abounded from their short-shorts-clad guitarist. In the most British fashion, frontman Rob Damiani ended nearly every song with an emphatic “cheers!” This was my first exposure to Don Broco, but I’m completely hooked after this show.
The atmosphere went from light-hearted dance party to super intense almost immediately when Washington D.C.-based Periphery took the stage. Their sound is much more traditionally metal than any of the other groups on the lineup, with tons of guttural screaming and a little too much of that characteristic, twang-y, tinny bass guitar for my taste. But the Dallas crowd was definitely into it. Many fans were incessantly head banging, screaming along with every word from vocalist Spencer Sotelo and air-guitaring to the distorted riffs laid down by Misha Mansoor.
After a solid 3.5 hours of opening acts, Dance Gavin Dance finally took the stage. They got things started with “Son of a Robot” and “Suspended in this Disaster” from 2018’s Artificial Selection and continued with a mix of tracks that nicely represented the breadth of their catalog and style. They even threw in “Uneasy Hearts Weigh the Most” off their 2008 self-titled album, which was a nice surprise. I don’t want this review to turn into a blow-by-blow of their set list, but I’d be remiss to not mention that they played their newest single “Head Hunter.” The ridiculousness of the lyrics, although nothing particularly new for DGD, is somehow even more apparent when screamed by Jon Mess on this track. The standout bit for me is in the second screamed verse: “Eat till I’m sleepy/The muffins are beefy/A giant diamond/When you’re blessed it shows.”
This was certainly not my first time attending a Dance Gavin Dance live show, but every time I see them I’m totally blown away by the sheer talent each musician brings to the table. Will Swan is particularly fun to watch. He tore it up the entire time with some insanely technical stuff but just stood there on stage unfazed by it all, as if it were the easiest thing in the world. Simply put, Dance Gavin Dance puts on a show like no one else.